Is an unset jewel
Upon the tender night
Yearning for its dear old friend
When the Nameless One debuts again
Ten thousand facets of my being unfurl wings
And reveal such a radiance inside
I enter a realm divine –
I too begin to so sweetly cast light,
Like a lamp,
Through the streets of this
My heart is an unset jewel
Waiting for the Friend’s touch.
My heart is an unset ruby
Offered bowed and weeping to the Sky.
I am dying in these cold hours
For the resplendent glance of God.
I am dying
Because of a divine remembrance
Of who I really am.
Is a brilliant reed instrument
In need of the breath of the
I was away last weekend on retreat in upstate New York. It seems that every time I go on retreat, I enter the experience feeling very heavy and in my head, and come out completely astonished at the love, release, and rededication I find. This weekend was particularly powerful due to being able to spend time with and have some very deep conversations with three of my beloved teachers and two friends. Kirtan, yoga, sanga, and other common retreat activities are always wonderful, but sharing my heart with these individuals and taking their guidance was really powerful, reminding me that my greatest nourishment comes from closeness and seva to my beloved teachers.
On the first morning of the retreat, I found a book of Hafiz poems in the house library. I spent half an hour flipping through it during some down time. To my great joy and surprise, many of the poems spoke directly to my own sensibilities and aspirations. I wanted to share a few of them here.
One note: Hafiz uses a good deal of symbolism and code words. Most of the symbols in this poem are fairly clear, although I was a bit surprised to see him reference Christ. I don’t know how everyday Muslims or people in Hafiz’ literary and spiritual circles understood Christ at that time. In this poem I particularly appreciated how many of the symbols directly translate into a Vaishnava context, perhaps with even sweeter significance than the Muslim! For me, the Moon refers to sweet Mahaprabhu; the Sky to God’s all-embracing love and to His material manifestation in general; the Friend accessing that aspect of Divine love. The Nameless One incorporates the way in which the Divine can be represented by names, but is also beyond any name, a meditation more common in some other spiritual traditions than the Vaishnav. And, of course, the reed instrument: Krishna plays us like a flute.
I also want to make sure I wasn’t misunderstood in my last entry. The point was not about some misguided devotee who said unkind words (albeit with good intentions!). The point was that, for a few days, I glimpsed this all-encompassing, unifying love, and felt this was very important and wanted to say something about it. It’s so easy to criticize or make enemies or think “I know better than this person.” I can’t know better than someone else because I haven’t had their experiences. I may agree or disagree, but that’s not the point. I think that actually trying to see the world with love – and everyone in it, friend or stranger – and to try to cultivate a mood of friendship and service to everyone we encounter – again, friendly or unfriendly – is what actually pleases God. There’s no point in trying to prove my worth, especially in comparison to others. Sacred texts (Vaishnav and others) affirm that this is the mood in which God and those close to Him approach others. And if you don’t believe me, here it is from someone who really knows what he’s talking about (a transcription from my spiritual teacher’s class the other day):
“One who is advanced in intelligence is eager to perform welfare activities for others. An advanced human being is never malicious to others. Those with advanced intelligence are always conscious that this material body is different from the soul. … If a person like you who has become advanced due following the instructions of spiritual masters becomes carried away by the influence of material nature, all your advancement may be considered simply a waste of time.” – SB 4.20.3-6
“If you want to actually become transcendental to material nature, it is these values of Krishna consciousness that we have to prioritize, because that is what pleases Krishna. Real intelligence is to never be malicious to others. Real intelligence is to be eager to perform welfare activities for others. Those who act this way are considered the best among human beings by Krishna. To put ourself secondary to what actually pleases Krishna. Actually, we must put our higher self over our lower self. In order to put his higher self over his lower self, King Prithu did not perform the sacrifice that would have made him the greatest King in the world. He let Indra remain the most powerful to prevent conflict. This actually pleased Krishna. King Prithu humbled himself and attained the ultimate perfection. He pleased Krishna the most. Actually, in the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam, who is more honored, loved, and glorified: the powerful or the humble?” – RNS